One Piece: Maintaining relevance for nearly three decades | Sunday Observer

One Piece: Maintaining relevance for nearly three decades

25 December, 2022
Bounties reflect the threat an individual can potentially cause against the World Government (the Navy). Bounties aren’t necessarily based on strength, as holding vital information like Nico Robin can escalate one’s bounty significantly.
Bounties reflect the threat an individual can potentially cause against the World Government (the Navy). Bounties aren’t necessarily based on strength, as holding vital information like Nico Robin can escalate one’s bounty significantly.

Manga is a form of graphic novel that originates from the Land of the Rising Sun. Throughout history, the first ever manga was cited to be the 12th-century scrolls known as the Choju Jinbutsu Giga, which were the first medium to portray chronological storylines through Japanese art. Ever since then, manga has inspired countless young children to grow up and craft stories of their own.

Eiichiro Oda, and the beginning of One Piece

Throughout his childhood, Eiichiro Oda was a Dragon Ball fanatic and has directly cited the author, Akira Toriyama, as his biggest influence. Inspired by Akira, Oda would then go on to frequently write for magazines and manga issues but to no avail.

Monkey D. Luffy’s very first character design

However, at the age of 19, he received an opportunity to write and draw a one-shot for the ‘Weekly Shōnen Jump’. Titled “Romance Dawn”, it was the first work of Oda’s to feature the soon-to-be protagonist of One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy.

“Romance Dawn” received positive feedback, and in 1997, One Piece began serialization in Weekly Shōnen Jump. As of 2022, One Piece is the best-selling manga of all time, with approximately 516.6 million issues in circulation, and Volume 67 currently holds the record for the most copies of any single manga volume sold, sitting at 4.05 million.

What it’s about

It’s a story about love, power, friendship, politics, equality, rights, and freedom, and I could honestly keep on going forever but I think you get my point. Spanning over an incredible thousand chapters, and 104 volumes, it follows Monkey D. Luffy’s crew, the Straw Hats, as they set out on a death-defying voyage filled with despair, heartbreak, and gaiety to help him find the “One Piece” while aiming to accomplish each of their own peculiar missions on the way.

“One Piece” is a famed treasure that has only ever been found by Gol D. Roger, who is commonly cited as “The Pirate King” in the world of One Piece, and Luffy’s only goal is to find it and establish himself as the new Pirate King. It isn’t as simple as following a map from point A to point B as there are many gruelling obstacles to overcome on the way, so he foregathered a crew of 10 members, each of whom has a characteristic trait or skill that Luffy deemed useful for his escapade. Due to them typically being a trouble-seeking group of sorts who more often than not end up splattered on newspapers in the world of One Piece, they were dubbed the “Straw Hats”, after Luffy’s iconic sun hat.

The Straw Hats

The members each have a unique personality partnered with specific skill sets, with a variety of backstories, agendas, and motives. Shown below are the bounty posters of the current 10 members:

Zoro is a rugged swordsman with stoic facial expressions, a silly sense of humour, and a hack-and-slash personality. Always coming in 2nd during popularity polls, it’s safe to assume that many boys idolize his immense strength and resilience. On the other hand, Usopp is a marksman who utilizes slingshots and is cowardly by nature, but he is the most pain-tolerant member of the crew. Although he initially chickens out when he has to step up and do something, he always manages to find it in him to carry any task out no matter how much physical torment he has to go through.

All in all, the wide range of personalities amongst the crew members allow readers to resonate strongly with at least one character who closely resembles themselves. Having a character people can closely bond with and relate to is one of the main reasons One Piece is as big as it currently is. There’s never a lack of representation.


Katakuri (left) doesn’t even look like he’s in the same manga as Big Mom (right). They each don drastically different base designs, so wait till you find out that Big Mom is actually, well, Katakuri’s biological mother.

Eiichiro Oda simply does not care. He spends zero time listening to critics bickering about his work, and he ignores any headcanon that fans constantly pressure him to include in his work. Oda has one goal, and it’s not to please the masses or to sell the most volumes.

He just wants to dive into his own imagination and construct a story that he himself will enjoy writing by bringing his childhood dreams to life and immortalizing them as a work of written fiction. This allows One Piece to maintain a constant theme throughout its lengthy run, and even Mania Entertainment writer Jarred Pine stated that “Oda’s imagination just oozes from of the panels.”

Time and time again, Oda has shown to be a writer who makes his readers think. He carefully plants intricate details and hints throughout his story that majorly foreshadow events to come. I’ve experienced this myself actually.

It’s hard to put into words but when you notice the smallest of clues from a chapter nearly eight years prior and somehow manage to guess what that clue will eventually lead to, it’s a different kind of feeling.

Oda knows his readers are capable independent thinkers who are more than able to put two and two together, and he loves driving them crazy with anticipation.

The urge to see if the clue you picked up actually builds up to what you expect it to is what keeps readers jumping up and down in excitement as they desperately wait for the coming week’s chapter.

Oda has a knack for conjuring up wacky characters who stand unique when compared with the millions of other manga characters out there. While most authors tend to design characters who are visually appealing or good-looking, Oda likes to do as he pleases.

Apart from their distinctive personalities, every character’s instantly recognizable color scheme paired with their design allows them to stand out within the cosmic universe of One Piece.

What’s next

One Piece’s current relevancy isn’t just a couple of long-lasting fans voicing their love for the manga inside an echo chamber. Look at the latest movie, Film Red. It grossed over 200 million USD, marking its name in history as the 9th highest-grossing Japanese film of all time. Mind you, this is the 15th One Piece movie, with each movie grossing more than the one before. As far as trajectories go, I highly doubt One Piece will ever truly “end”. Sure, the story arcs might conclude and Oda will probably retire, but the Straw Hats’ adventures will carry on.

The impact One Piece made is so significant that I’m certain it’ll last for multiple lifetimes, especially with the vast amount of remakes and spin-offs that are soon to come. One Piece has evolved far beyond just manga, or anime. It has become a lifestyle.